Well the last two days in and around Minsk certainly have been fun. What a gem of a place. I still cannot get over the cleanliness of the place and the style and chic that it has particularly in terms of female summer fashion. Wow!!!
The first trip out was to Njasvizh yesterday a mere 2-hour train and bus trip there, easy by now isn’t it. It is an older town that has managed to retain some of its former glory and is having the rest restored; half the sites I found myself as the guide book was not much good. The bits I did find were fantastic; the city gates, a church, and a restored house and best of all a huge park with a partially restored palace in the middle of a number of huge defensive lakes and moats. The park is basically an arboretum and I sat down and relaxed on the banks of the lake enjoying a cigar watching the water gently flow under the arched wooden bridge as the gentle breeze stirred the willow, shall I go on? It was superb, I sat there with the local old fisherman with his lived in appearance. The park would look great in any season but autumn would look spectacular. After a few more sites in Njasvizh I attempted to head back. However, in the rush of jumping from train to bus I did not notice the name of the station I got off at. So had difficulty trying to get a ticket back to it. Not knowing the name makes it all the more difficult on minimal Russian language. The fearsome ticket office babushka was having none of it. She told me sternly to stop where I was. Not wanting to argue and knowing that underneath the gruff exterior lay a heart of gold, I stood exactly where I was, right next to the minute ticket window. Sure enough at 13:10 just as she had tried to tell me, my faith in her was assured. She got me the last seat on a fast direct minibus to Minsk, which got me back in half the time than it took me to get there.
This is typical of numerous encounters I have had. Perhaps it is my travel experience, or luck or just Belarus hospitality, but you do not have get past many layers of brusqueness if any at all to find genuine warmth and friendliness here. I cannot stress this enough. I have never once felt angry distressed, unnerved, confused or out of my depth, Belarus affects you that way.
There were more museums, relaxing in the park and filling up with food when I got back. It is such a great place to chill out. And none of you knew about it until now.
This morning was a trip to Dudutki. This is a living ethnography museum; pottery, carpentry (accompanied by the death metal loving carpenter), a smithy, bread, butter and cheese making as well as a Samagon still, this is the local “moonshine”. Not as good as the nuns of Varzia circa 2003 but getting there. I was just about to leave when an English voice was heard, his name was Martin he was here on business and he lives in Dodford, near Bromsgrove, this is about 2 miles from my house, spooky or what. After I visited the old windmill nearby he and his business colleagues gave me a lift back to Minsk. The journey out was quite some achievement it is far too long to explain now but involves two trolley buses, numerous babushkas, a drunk, the bus driver and several local farmers. So to get a lift back was a real bonus. Anyway, whilst on this journey back to Minsk, the old Nuclear power station was pointed out to us along with the thermo nuclear warhead / pharmaceutical plant, right on the outskirts of Minsk, interesting!
Tomorrow it is a trip to Mir, Novogrodek and then Brest, before my flight home from Warsaw on Friday. Booooo…
Anyway it is back to chilling out with a beer in the park watching the world go by. It’s a hard life this traveling